Faced with a Parenting Dilemma? Write a Book About It! Jacob Grant Comes By to Talk About NO FAIR
Show of hands. How many of you out there watched the film The Legend of Billie Jean when you were young? Mmhm. Now how many of you walked around for weeks afterwards saying to your friends in faux Southern accents so thick they practically dripped, “Fair is fair!”? Yup. Me too. And who could blame us? Fairness, or the lack thereof, is burned into the bones of every child from birth onward. Honestly, there are studies out there showing that even babies want fairness, yes indeed they do.
So how brilliant is it that author/illustrator Jacob Grant figured all this out and came up with an ideal picture book idea? The book? No Fair, just out this month, and a fine and frolicksome companion to his previous book No Pants it is too. The plot? Behold!
“A big-hearted story about fairness and father-son love by the author-illustrator of No Pants!
Pablo and his dad are ready for a fun day together at the farmer’s market–what’s better than a bike ride, doughnuts, and hot apple cider? But Pablo’s dad says that everything Pablo picks out is too big for him. It’s just no fair! What if he was in charge and his dad was the kid, Pablo wonders. And his dad stops to think about it, too.
This light-hearted but thoughtful look at fairness introduces a important subject that everyone encounters throughout their lives.”
Want to know more? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Betsy Bird: Jacob! Such a pleasure to speak to you today. And congrats on the publication of NO FAIR! I suppose, in a way, this book is part of a series, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t an interesting origin story of its own. How did this book come to be?
Jacob Grant: I consider myself very lucky to bring the characters of NO PANTS back around for more father-son shenanigans, and this new story is so close to home that I would accidentally write my son’s name in place of the main character in the early drafts.
The inspiration for NO FAIR came about in the days we were all stuck at home. My wife and I did our best to come up with games for our energetic 2yo girl and 5yo boy, and some of those games had a winner and a loser. It quickly became clear that our son did not handle losing well. (At one point there was vomit.) I was so baffled by the intensity of his feelings that I did what I normally do when faced with a parenting dilemma – I wrote a story about it.
BB: Dang. I think I just suffered a mild flashback to that time, vomit and all. Now you have all kinds of innately unfair (at least to the kid) examples in this book. When creating a picture book of this sort, do you ever test things out on real kids to see what they think? Did you try out any aspects of this book?
JG: The funny thing about this question is that it could be referring to my book-making process or whether I tested out being unfair to my children. Yes to both! Though the social experiment side of it was simply observation of our daily lives rather than being purposely unfair. There’s just not much fair about being a kid. Whether that’s not having a say in where you go, or what you eat, or when to go to bed, or even having to read your Dad’s unfinished books.
BB: And were there things you wanted to include in this book but were unable to do so for one reason or another?
JG: For unsurprising reasons, my original setting for the story was in Pablo’s home. I do think moving the story out to the market was the right decision, but I regret losing a few moments that were particular to that setting. One scene had a living room beach ball/volleyball game that we played a lot with our own kids. (See above note about vomit.) Another had Pablo rage-flipping a board game into the air. (We are big board game nerds.) And a personal favorite was Dad being caught sneaking treats after Pablo had gone to bed. (Totally fictional.)
BB: I know that scientific studies have shown that even babies have an innate sense of what is and what isn’t fair. Is there a particular example of unfairness from your own childhood, or even someone else’s, that you can use to tap into that feeling of righteous indignation?
JG: I grew up competing with a brother who was just a little more than a year older than me, so complaining about fairness was one of our favorite pastimes. However, the memory that I come back to me is not about my brother but about the food in our childhood home. Our Mom was granola long before organic foods were a thing, and I remember the palpable indignation I felt when I discovered that other kids did not have to eat wheat bread, or rice cakes, and most disturbing of all: plain cereal without coloring added.
What’s hilarious to me is that I now shop just like my Mom. Sorry kids!
BB: The vicious circle. Finally, so far we’ve seen “No Pants” and now “No Fair”. Surely there’s got to be a third book to round out this triumvirate. Can you tell us if it exists and, if so, what it is?
JG: I think I’m well-positioned to make a book titled: NO HAIR. And I’m not even joking when I say that it was my favorite alternate follow-up to NO PANTS. There’s just so much potential with Pablo being the rascal he is. I currently have some other projects in the works, but if the publisher comes knocking for a third story, this bald Dad has plans!
Bald dads for the win!
Many many thanks to Jacob for taking the time to answer these questions and to Sierra Pregosin and the folks at Penguin Random House for setting this up in the first place. No Fair is out now wherever fine books are borrowed or sold.
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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